The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Riding On The Doghouse

My Dad was a trucker. For as far back as I can remember he drove 18-wheelers. That is not a pic of Dad, but it's pretty close to the truck he drove. To say he was Old School is an understatement. Think of Cotton Hill, Hank's Dad on King of the Hill and you'd have a pretty accurate description of my father.

I used to ride with him when I was on vacation (to be honest about it, it was Mom's vacation!). The first trip I can remember taking was in the summer of 1967. I rode with Dad in a '67 WhiteFreightliner cabover. In a cabover the cab sits over the engine. Get it? The hump over the engine in the middle of the cab is called the doghouse. That doghouse became my perch while we crisscrossed the nation.

Actual pic of me on Doghouse.

Long before the days of CB radios I learned how truckers communicated with each other thru a system of hand signs and light flashes. We went from Texas to Maine then back to California. I stayed with my Aunt and Uncle near Bakersfield for a week then loaded back up with Dad and we made our way home to Texas. It was a HUGE adventure and probably is the reason I love travel so much today.

I had to sneak around with Dad because riders were strictly forbidden by the company. In New Jersey, Dad & I were busted at a company terminal while waiting for a load. I was hiding in the sleeper and a 1 hour stop turned into an all day affair. After a couple hours he made me get out of the truck because of the heat. The company officials threw a huge fit when they saw me and told Dad to put me on a bus home or he was fired.

Fortunately, Dad was friends with a couple of Greeks that owned a small truckstop. He dropped me off there and told the company he put me on a bus. I stayed there while he loaded then one of the Greeks drove me from New Jersey to Delaware where we met up with Dad after he was sure nobody followed him. I hid out in the sleeper while Dad drove non-stop all night to get us the hell out of there.

Speaking of driving all night, this was 1967. Little white pills and "West Coast Turnarounds" were cool socially acceptable. Back in the day it was expected for truckers to take speed to get the job done. They wrote songs about it. It was common practice and I saw it all firsthand.

This was long before the Interstate highway system was completed. The roads ran thru towns, not around them. Think "Radiator Springs" from the movie "Cars". I saw backyard America from sea to shining sea and fell in love with it, all while riding on the doghouse.

I also saw the flightline of an Air Force Base, Boston, New York City and The Statue of Liberty, Washington, D.C. , Daytona Beach, New Orleans, Houston, El Paso, Juarez, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bakersfield, San Diego, Tijuana and more. I swam in the Atlantic and the Pacific. I visited a foreign country (twice!), crossed the Mojave Desert, Continental Divide and Mississippi River.

A few months later I started First Grade.


el chupacabra said...

Great story man.

just a girl... said...

what a great story. My grandmother always tells me about the time that she came to the hospital when I got my tubes out. She rode between two truckers all the way in. And CB radio never gets old.